East Hampton Town officials appear to be passing the buck when it comes to control of the burgeoning nightlife scene in Montauk. The easternmost hamlet in town has had a half-score years of favorable publicity from movies and fawning magazine stories, and, as a result, has gotten what seems to be a little too popular for some longtime residents’ tastes. Town Hall is at best disconnected, allowing apparently unchecked expansion of some businesses and now appearing to be surprised at the chaos of a busy Saturday night.
At a town board meeting on Tuesday, an irritated resident complained about noise and garbage at Solé East, a restaurant and gathering spot on Second House Road. Patrons’ vehicles were parked on her property, Kimberly Esperian said. The subject of crazy parking and traffic on Navy Road was discussed as well, as was the well-documented mayhem at the Surf Lodge over on Edgemere Street.
Now, some Montaukers are looking at the renovated Ruschmeyer’s Inn, at the other end of Second House Road in a residential zone, and wondering if it may have been overexpanded. Downtown Montauk is not spared the action, what with the Sloppy Tuna drawing crowds and popular ladies’ nights at the Memory Motel and the Point Bar and Grill across Montauk Highway, which are setting off all sorts of late-night cavorting and petty crime. Some people say that the crowds are good for Montauk’s economy, but it’s obvious that much of the money the party crowd brings in goes out of the hamlet just as quickly.
There are limits, of course, to what local officials can do about noisy and often noisome nightspots. But an obvious place to start is to limit the crowds that spill onto the streets around the popular haunts. The town code counts those who are actually inside an establishment or on a deck or porch toward its legal capacity for patrons. There has been talk among town board members that they might look into setting a maximum spillover capacity for an establishment’s grounds as well. At the very least, existing regulations on the expansion of these kinds of businesses in residential districts must be dusted off and enforced — as in several cases these operations are the ones that cause the greatest annoyance and inconvenience to those who live nearby.
The East Hampton Town Board, and especially Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, who is running for re-election this year, cannot blithely dismiss mounting frustration, telling complainers, in effect, to pipe down because the nightspots are good for the economy. Maybe. But maybe those who call Montauk home are entitled to some peace and quiet at what is supposed to be the sweetest time of the year.